Wonder how much of your children to show on social media? Use these questions to get your wheels turning so you can make your own choices.
I remember, around 15 years ago, reading an article from a San Francisco newspaper while on vacation with my mom.
In the newspaper there was a story about a girl who got a college scholarship for basketball to a prestigious school and then…because of a partying photo on her MySpace profile , she got her scholarship revoked.
This stuck with me.
I’m writing this post knowing it’ll strike a chord and perhaps people will send me hate mail (what’s new?) and all that jazz.
I think it’s important.
A while back in some type of self-help book I read about a kind of decision that’s familiar to many of us. It’s called this.
A creeping non-decision
A creeping non-decision is when you make a decision… because you didn’t make a decision. You let whatever happens, happen.
It denotes a lack of intentionality and purpose.
What's in this post...
I think we should avoid this.
I’d like to talk about the amount we share about our children online.
What exactly we share about them online.
How much we share about them online.
And how it’s probably important to make some type of decision about how we’re going to filter what we share.
Now, you’re probably thinking…
“But, um, Rachel, you have a website in which you share about your family.”
Yes, I do.
And I share photos of my kids on Instagram and I love a good family profile picture update as good as the next person.
In fact, I don’t have a plan to keep my kids’ faces off the internet. I post funny quotes or happy and memorable moments.
So you see, I’m not an extremist.
That said, increasingly I feel it’s important we steward our children’s private lives (especially the ones too little to have their own social media) with wisdom and care.
Questions To Ask Yourself Before You Post Photos Of Your Children On Social Media
If you think through these concepts and talk about them with your spouse, you will likely discover what your boundaries are around this issue.
❔ Is This The Truman Show Effect?
Remember that movie the Truman Show?
It was filmed in my county actually, so I know it well.
One day, as a grown man, Truman discovers that his entire life had been broadcast to millions of people via a TV show without his knowledge.
The public knew the details and nuances of his life. Things he didn’t give permission to be shared. People all over just… knew things.
And they felt like they knew him.
But he had never met them.
Question: Are we sharing such deep information about our children that others- basically Stranger Acquaintances on Facebook or Instagram – think they know our kids in detail?
Thought: Would you feel exposed if others knew all manner of things about you that you hadn’t actually shared with them?
❔Are There Naked Body Parts?
If you think a photo might be too revealing, imagine that same photo with an adult in it instead of a child.
If it seems a bit risque, take a pass.
I am sure I’ve posted some baby bottom pictures here and there because they are precious photos, but my stance on this has gradually changed.
Particularly because the research coming out is shocking. There are entire pedophile rings that stalk certain keywords on social media to get photos. Then they distribute them.
I wish I was joking, but I am serious.
If you don’t believe me, ask your local law enforcement, and don’t send me hate mail until you hear back from them and they tell you I’m right.
Question: Does this picture show my children’s private parts or elude to the privates?
Thought: Is there a reason why I want / feel the need to share this particular photo if my child isn’t fully dressed? Could another photo express the same sentiment?
Note: I’m not talking bathing suits here, kay, don’t send me hate mail.
❔ Will Your Kid Remember This?
It’s a trend now to give your baby his or her own Instagram handle so they’ll have it in the future.
I’ve also heard this about email which I feel is different since that’s private.
There is no hard or fast rule here, as with most of life.
And yet, do you think it’d be odd if – one random day – your mama showed you a social media account with thousands of YOUR PHOTOS from memories YOU DO NOT HAVE because you were too little?
And then said that thousands (or tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands) of people follow your life?
That you don’t know?
Who you’ve never met?
Will your child feel that strangers know more about their life and history than they do based on their own brain development and current ability to store and retrieve memories?
Question: Where do you and your spouse or family members want to draw the line when sharing information about your children?
Thought: Is this simply a precious moment I want to share, or am I trying to tell a deeper story about the private life of my child that might better be kept in the family?
Another Thought: In 15 years, will my child think it’s weird I tried to build a following for them sharing memories they don’t have?
❔ Will This Embarrass Them In 20 Years?
We all know the baby in the bathtub stories the family brings out to show our high school or college boyfriends.
And we were sorta embarrassed, but not really because it was a rite of passage.
Well, now these aren’t in the family photo album (in the family home) being shown to friends.
They are broadcast on public platforms to complete strangers and accessible at the click of a mouse or the swipe of a finger to anyone.
Question: Is this something that might embarrass a more reserved or shy person? if so, give it a pass. Your child may grow up to be reserved and find a photo of them with no pants on potty training to be deeply humiliating.
Thought: Why do I feel the need to share this? Can I share this story or sentiment without naming a particular child or showing photo evidence?
❔ Is This Something A Psychologist Would Have To Keep Secret?
If a psychologist or psychiatrist would be required by law to keep this information private… maybe we shouldn’t share it about our kids.
If a lawyer would be required to keep this information privileged… maybe we shouldn’t share it about our kids.
If a doctor would be unable to share this medical information or diagnosis with the public, then we maybe we shouldn’t be sharing it ourselves without our kids’ permission.
And their permission only really counts if they are old enough and mature enough to understand what they are giving permission for.
And I’M NOT TALKING ABOUT GROUPS created for prayer and support. That has its place and has been shown to be extremely helpful, encouraging, and a way to get practical needs met.
I’m talking about journaling our children’s mental health problems in a way that might make them uncomfortable in the future.
Or if they, for example, want to run for office.
❔ What if your child wants to run for President?
Yes, I know this is a long shot and an extreme to draw out my point.
Yet, it’s important to think about what we share about our children in terms of their adult life.
- Would they want the world to know about their learning disability?
- Would they like their future bosses to know they had to repeat a grade?
- Would they want the world wide inter-webs to know about their mental health struggles?
Obviously, it’s a long shot your child will run for office. And who knows, in 30 years, it may not matter a bit since our privacy is eroded daily as we speak.
Yet reputation is a concept that has always been around and will always be around.
Question: Does this information or photograph of my child in any way sully their reputation? (I’m not asking if it SHOULD sully their reputation, but if it MIGHT).
❔ What do the higher ups do?
There are lots of posts going around about how people (um, inventors) like Steve Jobs don’t let their children on tablets.
The people inventing these technologies shield their own children from them.
But that’s another post for someone else to write.
Celebrities rarely share information or photographs of their children. Elite politicians and powerful CEOs keep their own children protected from the limelight and spotlight as a general rule.
We have to ask ourselves… what do they know that we don’t?
I’m not saying pretend you’re someone famous… but maybe I am.
Question: If celebrities and those used to the spotlight think it’s preferable to protect their own children… why do we think it’s preferable to create celebrities OUT OF our children?
There’s no right or wrong. Boundaries will differ for each person. And your own spouse’s boundaries may differ from your own.
That also gets hairy.
Look the fact is, it’s our life too and sometimes we’ll share photos or experiences of ourselves that our children are in.
This is normal.
I’m not saying to stop sharing all photos of kids. I have no plans to do this. I’m not saying to stop sharing cute stories or memorable moments as a family.
That isn’t the world we live in.
What I AM saying is that it’s important each of us make actual decisions about how we will steward our children’s private lives.
Not “creeping non-decisions” our children may hold us accountable for later.